Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Gisela and Christopher Slater-Walker

Top Tips on Love and Relationships from
Gisela and Christopher Slater-Walker

Gisela and Christopher Slater-Walker married in 1994. They met while both studying Russian at Manchester University in the UK. They live in Hertfordshire with three children from Gisela’s previous marriage and their son George. Chris was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 1997. They are the authors of An Asperger Marriage.

Top Tips for both partners:

1. Know what makes each other laugh – and enjoy laughing together. A sense of humour can be really uniting. A good funny film or comedy series is a good way of enjoying each other’s company. Doing anything together is a good thing, and be prepared to try something new that your partner enjoys. You never know what new interest you might discover.

2. Be happy to do things separately. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to spend all your spare time together.

3. Avoid blaming Autism or “Neurotypicalism” for all your relationship problems! No-one’s perfect.

4. The Autistic response to a problem will be that the best way of helping is to find a solution, the “Neurotypical” response is to give a hug or sympathy. Both responses have equal merit and it is the thought behind the desire to help that is important.

To the non-spectrum partner:

5. Make it very clear if you would like help; your Autistic partner wants to help you but may not be able to anticipate your needs.

To the autistic partner:

6. Try to make it clear to your partner (by telling them) if you are feeling stressed.

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Safeguarding babies and very young children from abuse and neglect – An Interview with Rebecca Brown

Rebecca Brown is a Research Associate at the Centre for Child and Family Research, UK.

Together with Harriet Ward and David Westlake, she’s co-written the latest book in the Safeguarding Children Across Services series called Safeguarding Babies and Very Young Children from Abuse and Neglect, which explores key issues surrounding the safeguarding process and coincides with NSPCC’s All Babies Count campaign, highlighting the abuse and neglect of very young children.

In this interview she discusses some of the findings of the research study upon which the book is based, and the affect of the “Baby P” scandal on this research.

Can you talk a bit about your research study, and what you intended to discover in carrying out the research?

The study explored the decision making processes that influenced the life pathways and development progress of these very young children. Research tells us that the first three years of a child’s life are key in their emotional, social, psychological, behavioral and physical development, and as such, the decisions made by professionals about these children, are also likely to be key. Therefore, the study aimed to: trace the decisions made on behalf of these very young children; examine the rationale for those decisions, as well as the part played by the parents in that decision making; and understand the consequences of these decisions for the children.

During the period that you were carrying out the research, “Baby P” died of maltreatment and the subject of safeguarding babies and young children became the focus of intense national scrutiny. What kind of additional challenges did you experience trying to produce the research in such a charged environment?

This was a coincidence; we did not know this when we started the research. All of our sample children were born in the same year as Peter Connelly, and many of them experienced very similar circumstances to him. Peter Connelly died about half-way through our data collection, and we noticed a difference in the type of data we were collecting as a consequence. Firstly, local authorities became wary of giving us access to case files and to practitioners to interview due to the intense media scrutiny social workers were under at around this time; secondly, there was an increase in case activity in the months that immediately followed his death; and thirdly, we suspect there was an increase in the use of expert witnesses by the courts.

What are some of the key findings that arose from the research?

Much of the decision-making for these very young children was of high quality, showed evidence of extreme care and was based on hard evidence. However the study also raised a number of concerns: firstly about the level of inter-agency working, and in particular considerable tensions were identified between adult and children’s services; secondly, the findings revealed a number of gaps in social worker knowledge and understanding, especially in areas of attachment theory and child development; thirdly, there was evidence that delayed decision-making had detrimental consequences for the outcomes of these children – practitioners need to be fully aware of these consequences and the importance of taking swift action when babies are suffering significant harm; fourthly, there was a focus on the birth parents to the exclusion of the child; and fifthly, the study raised concerns about the quality of some kinship care placements.

The study also found that some parents can overcome many adversities to provide a loving and nurturing home for their children within an appropriate timescale, and found factors which were indicative of parents’ ability to do so. However, it also highlighted that where parents are able to overcome adversities, there is a need for careful monitoring in the long-term to ensure these changes are sustained.

Identifying the problem of neglect seems to be a key issue. Why do you think it is so difficult for professionals to recognise this type of abuse and to act on it?

The findings from this study add to a wealth of evidence showing that, despite a growing body of knowledge of its adverse impact on early development, children are often left with inadequate support in grossly neglectful homes. There were a number of reasons why, for these babies, neglect was so difficult to recognise and respond to, which includes an over-identification by practitioners with their families. This meant that they occasionally lacked professional objectivity and their constant exposure to these families meant that they sometimes became inured to the evidence of neglect. Evidence of neglect was also often difficult to act upon unless a crisis occurred, such as a baby found home alone overnight, or a toddler found alone wondering the streets.

What changes do you think professionals and policymakers need to make to improve the protection of babies and young children at risk of harm?

We make a number of recommendations in the book for improvements to both policy and practice, all of which emphasise the importance of minimising delay where babies are identified to be suffering significant harm. Our study showed that often practitioners waited fruitlessly for parents to change their abusive behaviour, which ultimately did not happen and had severe consequences for the welfare and long-term outcomes of these very vulnerable children.

What do you hope that the readers will take away, having read the book?

Unlike Peter Connelly, none of the children in our study died. However the sample did include children who were not fed for so long that they stopped crying, and were severely underweight as a consequence; who were allowed to taste amphetamines from a spoon; who could describe how to prepare heroin for consumption; and who were left to forage in the bin for food. The future life chances for these children were substantially compromised as a result of their experiences of abuse and neglect, which continued to occur for many of them whilst their cases were open to children’s social care.

I hope that the readers will ask much more stringent questions of what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable level of care and parenting in a civilised society.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Using CBT strategies to help young people “starve” their Anger Gremlin – An Interview with Kate Collins-Donnelly

Kate Collins-Donnelly is a therapist, psychologist and anger management consultant based in the UK. She currently runs a successful independent consultancy practice which provides cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, coaching and training.

In this interview, Kate talks about her new workbook, Starving the Anger Gremlin, the extreme gratification of seeing young people learn to control their anger in the midst of often dire situations, and how she deals with her own Anger Gremlin.

The Anger Gremlin is an imaginative concept – where did you get the idea from?

A naughty gremlin sat on someone’s shoulder is an age-old image that many of us can relate to, having seen it in so many forms of literature and film. Personally, I can remember seeing Tom, from the classic children’s cartoon Tom and Jerry, with an angel on one shoulder and a devilish figure on the other whilst deciding whether to chase his archenemy Jerry! I have found that children and young people can easily visualise a gremlin sat on their shoulder, uttering negative or unhelpful thoughts in their ear, and the concept of starving this gremlin developed from there. It became a key part of how I would describe the process of emotional reactions based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to people of any age. It’s a great visual way to show how if we think or act in a certain way, we can control those emotions that are having a negative impact on us, such as anger, anxiety or stress. I found that people of all ages could really relate to the concept.

I decided to write Starving the Anger Gremlin because I saw the need for it every single day in my work with young people and because young people, parents and practitioners asked me to! The self-help market is full of titles, but I don’t believe there are enough aimed directly at young people, especially in relation to how to manage their anger.

How long have you been working with children and young people, and how did you first get into this area of work?

I developed an interest in psychology and what made humans “tick” as a teenager. I started working with young people through volunteer work approximately 16 years ago, realised how rewarding it could be, and my career developed from there. I now manage a successful private practice that helps children and young people every single day through one-to-one therapeutic support, training workshops, self-help literature and through training parents and a wide range of practitioners on emotional management issues experienced by children and young people.

What has been your experience of working with young people on anger management – what are the biggest challenges? What amazing results have you witnessed?

Working with young people on anger management has been an extremely rewarding experience because I have been privileged to see young people overcome their difficulties and, in many cases, totally turn their lives around. The biggest challenge for the young people themselves is when they are trying to work out how to deal with their anger in response to extremely difficult circumstances, which they have to contend with on a daily basis, such as cyberbullying, witnessing domestic violence in the home or witnessing parental substance abuse.

Young people under these circumstances have such a right to feel angry, but the biggest challenge is to find a way to let go of that anger or to express it in a constructive way, especially when the options to move away from the difficult life issues are limited. Every change you witness when working with young people is amazing no matter how large or small. I have worked with young children who have learnt to stop their angry acting-out behaviours at home with their parents or siblings; young people who have stopped getting into fights at school; young people who have changed their attitudes towards violence in relationships or towards gang violence; young people who have acknowledged their anger regarding the bullying they went through, and have learnt how to no longer turn that anger against themselves and move on from it, and much more. The list of amazing results is endless and the young people themselves need to be very proud of their achievements.

Do you have any gremlins of your own? How do you manage them?

We all have our gremlins, even those of us with a good understanding of this emotional management malarkey! And I’m no exception. In fact, in and amongst the pictures of gremlins on our office walls that children and young people have drawn sits a picture of mine! My gremlin is microscopic these days as I’ve learnt to starve it that much! However, like anyone else, there are days when I find my gremlin harder to starve. But that’s perfectly normal. As long as we all (myself included!) stick to the CBT-based strategies that work so well, we’ll be able to starve our gremlins most days, which isn’t bad going at all!

I don’t often get angry, though. But if I do, I know the only thing I can control in any situation is my own reaction to it. So that’s what I work on…controlling my reactions and starving my gremlin!

Read a Preview of Starving the Anger Gremlin »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Unlocking a child’s potential through vision therapy – An Interview with Dr. Joel Warshowsky

Joel H. Warshowsky is a Behavioral and Developmental Optometrist. He is Associate Clinical Professor and founding chief of pediatrics at SUNY State College of Optometry where he has taught for 35 years. He has served as Optometric Consultant to numerous schools for child development throughout the U.S. states of New York and New Jersey, and has lectured internationally and published widely in the field of Optometry.

Here, he answers questions about his new book, How Behavioral Optometry Can Unlock Your Child’s Potential.

Can you please tell us about your background and the path that led you to specialize in Behavioral and Developmental Optometry?

I always knew that my life career was going to involve caring for people.

My 35-year path began at the SUNY State College of Optometry in New York. Before I got into this profession, I chose dentistry. I actually took the dental school entrance exam twice. All was fine except for the spatial relationship component of the test. I failed miserably. The handwriting was clearly written on the wall: Joel, you won’t make it in dentistry! What my choices then were seemed to evolve into two somewhat related fields, podiatry or optometry. In as much as contact lenses had an appeal that toenail clippers lacked, optometry it was! Soon I found myself immersed in the specialized area of contact lenses. Any thoughts of visual therapy were far from my mind.

One day I found myself in need of information on accommodative esotropia (a crossed eye), a condition one of my patients had. As a result I met with Nathan Flax, my supervisor and chief of the vision therapy service. I clearly didn’t know how to evaluate and/or treat this condition and Dr. Flax let me know with no uncertainty that I didn’t have a clue. Through Dr. Flax’s efforts, I began to see the effect vision therapy could have on my patients. The changes were as direct and efficacious as the modifications I was making with hard contact lenses. Further, I soon became fascinated with the idea that not only could I affect a patients’ skills in such a consistent, reliable, and valid way, but I could also actually affect the way they felt about themselves. I approached my fourth year with my sights set on the vision training residency. I was accepted as the first SUNY professional in just the third SUNY vision therapy residency. This put me on my way to reach my path, my destiny in behavioral optometry.

What is behavioral optometry, and how can it help a child who appears to be underachieving?

Behavioral optometry is the art and science of treating visual dysfunction as a result of a lag or insult to visual development. Its basic tenet is based on the idea that visual dysfunction is treatable. Behavioral optometry considers vision in a way that lets children know they can develop effective, efficient, and effortless visual function with a resultant positive change in behavior and perception. This, in a very natural way, leads them to be able to resolve their own visual and associated behavioral dysfunctions. They become able to do this by being capable of going to the core of their visual dysfunction and remedying it.

Through behavioral optometry children reach a level of self-discovery within the visual process that introduces them to a new-found freedom heretofore unknown. It is a freedom to know and to cherish their very own true essence of self and their unique and special connectedness to the world. Underachieving children typically don’t feel connected. The process of training children to reframe their visual connectedness with the world is not only about vision. It is about utilizing vision to reframe the relationship between children’s inner reality and their external reality. Vision is merely the vehicle, the classroom, the training ground. The true benefits accrue when a child, perhaps your son or daughter, takes what he or she has achieved in the safe and nurturing environment of therapy and applies it to the outside world. It is then that a child’s entire sense of who they are and what they are capable of, has been modified for the better. And that modification has the potential to last a lifetime.

What is your new book about and what experience(s) motivated you to write it?

This book is about how visual dysfunction can not only create difficulty in sight, but it can also create a false sense of identity. When one has difficulty coordinating and focusing their eyes, there is difficulty locating where objects are in space and identifying what they see. One option is to make up what we think we see, creating a sense of illusion. This book shows how behavioral optometry can redevelop visual function into what I believe is our true inner sense of vision, leading us to our true self. Children who are aware of their true selves emerge into the powerful beings they truly are and thus reach their full potential. What greater gift can we give children than to help them in this process if and when that help is needed?

What motivated me to write this book was the idea that the visual, motor, and/or auditory dysfunctions children face are but one obstacle to their success. The greater the obstacle, however is misunderstanding what they encounter as a result of their dysfunction. They are told that they are wrong. They are told that they are bad. They are even told that they are stupid. Not always in so many words, but the message is nevertheless clear: they are the problem. And as a result of that message, spoken or implied, the harm is done: self-image is severely damaged. Their sense of failure becomes all-pervasive. They simply do not feel safe and they do not have the inner resources to become safe on their own. On top of the perceptual challenges they face, they must also face the challenges of rejection, of pain, and of loneliness. I wrote this book because no child should have to face all of these challenges at the same time. We as parents and as professionals have a responsibility to them, to meet them where they are, to see the world through their eyes, and to guide them to a new and healthier understanding of their full potential and value in this world. They need our help.

What are some misconceptions about vision problems? How can the book help bring clarity?

The most significant misperception about vision problems is the concept of 20/20, perfect vision. There are simply too many times that a youngster is examined by an eye doctor who states that a child’s eyes are fine because he or she sees at 20/20. This frequently leads a school’s child study team and parents alike, to falsely conclude that the child’s vision is not a cause of their reading and/or learning problem. The takeaway message here is that a vision problem is not necessarily because of eyesight, but rather it often results from a focusing and/or eye coordination problem. I cannot stress this enough: bright children will often see 20/20, but they may still not be able to comprehend what they have seen. Vision, one of the primary elements in the learning process, if not the primary one, is so much more than 20/20 vision. Just about any eighth grader can tell you what 20/20 vision means, but parents and educators alike often don’t know how little it means in the process of learning.

If 20/20 is considered the be all and end all of vision, very often the cause of the problem is missed and that child’s problem will continue to be misaddressed. When that happens, when their symptoms are continuously treated while the cause itself is unwittingly ignored, there can be no hope of remediation. The vexing problem will continue to exist with little hope of resolution. Children should be made aware of the joys and rewards of reading and learning. They deserve to know the benefits of knowing what their problems are and what solutions are available to remediate them.

Through this book you will gain a better understanding of the importance of the totality of vision in the learning process. You will recognize that your sole dependence on 20/20 representing vision is a waste of time and money when it comes to finding the root cause of a visually related reading or learning problem.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Maisie Voyager: A positive heroine with a unique outlook on life – An Interview with Lucy Skye

Photo: JKP author Lucy SkyeThe Adventure of Maisie Voyager is a story about a unique young girl who sets out on an adventure with a desire to do the right thing, without always knowing what the right thing is!

In this interview, author Lucy Skye discusses not only the inspiration behind some of Maisie’s fascinating character traits, but also her own personal and professional connection to autism and Asperger Syndrome, and how it affected her growing up.

Can you tell us a bit about you, and your personal and professional connection to autism and AS?

Autism has always been a part of my life, in the sense that I’ve grown up with it in the family. Although when I was younger, I didn’t really understand what autism was, I was still aware of the condition, and how it could affect someone. When I was at university, I began working with children with additional needs and I started to gain more insight. I’ve always loved working with children, but spending time with children with autism gave me a completely different perspective on the world.

I’ve got friends and family members with autism now, and I also work for the National Autistic Society, which gives me the fantastic opportunity to meet many wonderful people with autism, as well as those who care for and support them. Everyone has a different story to tell – their stories just need to be heard by more people.

I started writing stories when I was pretty small, but when I was about ten I had a teacher who encouraged me to write more, and I did so, on and off, before really getting into it again when I was a young adult. I enjoy anything creative (I studied music at university, and enjoy experimenting with weird art… but I’m not as good as the artist in the book!), but I think writing specifically allows me to explore the world from another point of view; it allows me to put my thoughts and feelings outside of myself. I try to make some time to write every day, even if it’s just a line or two.

What is the book about, and what inspired you to write it?

Maisie literally popped up on me one day. One of my favourite places is on the coastal path in North Cornwall, and as I was walking here, she just began to form in my mind. I’d been wanting to write a book for children for a while, but the ideas weren’t really connecting. Maisie was the lynchpin, and the story built itself around her. I read a lot, novels and non-fiction, and books aimed at children or adults. I also used to read (and still do!) a lot of Jacqueline Wilson. I love the fact that her books are so relatable, and that they can connect with children on many different levels. I think it’s fantastic that one of my favourite authors is now also loved by my young niece – it shows me how good writing can connect with any generation! I can’t hope to be as good as that, but in Maisie, I’ve always hoped that I can create someone who people can believe in: you want to be on her side, you want her to succeed. I’ve always been attracted to books with strong characters. When I was younger, I loved Laura from the Little House on the Prairie books, and Jo in Little Women, as well as more modern-day mischievous types such as Ramona Quimby or Tracey Beaker. Maisie definitely has a strong personality and she does what she thinks is the right thing to do, with the best of intentions…

The book is an adventure, borderline fantasy-reality. It’s a story you believe is nearly possible, but perhaps isn’t quite. I also used to read (and re-read) masses of Enid Blyton, so I probably owe the adventure element to her influence. But it’s very much a ‘now’ book. Maisie is very independent, has grown up exploring the world with her parents, and doesn’t like having to settle in one place living with her Aunt. Then the mystery starts, and people appear and disappear, and Maisie (with the help of a few others) has to try and make everything alright again.

Adventures offer possibilities – they offer you the chance to experience more of the world, and to do more than you thought you were capable of. I think I always liked adventure stories because the ending was always positive; the children always succeeded. I know that real life isn’t always like that, but we all need to believe in heroes at times.

The book’s heroine, Maisie, is a really positive and engaging character. Is she based on anyone in real life? Why and how do you think readers will relate to her character and the story?

Maisie has elements of lots of different people in her, including some of my friends, and me. I ‘stole’ quite a few of her sensory sensitivities from one of my friends, mainly because she was able to explain them to me so eloquently, and in such a positive way. Often, any differences or difficulties people have are seen to be, or assumed to be, really negative. Because Maisie grew up in an environment where she couldn’t compare herself to anyone else, she doesn’t see any of her differences as being negative. She has grown up being very self-sufficient and trying to solve problems by herself. I know that her stubbonness is a feature I can display; a desire to do the ‘right’ thing without always knowing what the ‘right’ thing is! Her differences cause her difficulties at times, but she has developed, or develops, strategies to help herself with these.

What I like about Maisie is that she’s not perfect, and she knows that. She doesn’t always have the answers. But she does her best, and takes the most out of life that she can. She has a real buzz for life! I hope that readers will be able to connect with that element of her.

Maisie has many AS traits, but you don’t make reference to a diagnosis in the book. Why did you choose to avoid this?

It certainly wasn’t conscious at first. I began writing the book without thinking any of the characters would have autism, but as I was writing, I began to realise that much of Maisie’s personality could be seen as being quite autistic. I was very keen however, that Maisie didn’t become an ‘autistic’ character. I just want her to be Maisie, and explore the world in her own way. The fact she might have autism is just one element of her personality. Perhaps part of me also hopes that we can start to see people for being more than just their autism, we need to be open to all that they are and can be.

Maisie also has a lot of sensory sensitivities. These can be really positive, but they can also cause her some difficulties as well. I find it fascinating, the impact a sensory sensitivity can have on an individual; it can make their experience of the world completely different. It’s something that isn’t often covered in fiction, although there’s a lot of non-fiction and research available. As my writing developed, I recognised that sensory perception was a big part of Maisie’s world, and consequently tried to develop that side of her character further.

I don’t know whether Maisie is, or isn’t autistic. But I hope that she is someone that many readers will be able to relate to through her lively and inquisitive personality. I think when we connect to people through our similarities, we can begin to understand and accept our differences better as well.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Lots of different things! Mainly, a sense of enjoyment. Also possibly a sense that ‘could an adventure happen to me?’ – a desire for the reader to be a hero in their own story. Even if we can’t find our own adventures, if we have greater belief in ourselves we can be stronger. I know many children, young people and adults with (and without) autism who have really low self-esteem. Reading helped me to discover more about the world and myself, and I hope, in a tiny way, that if people read Maisie then they will start to do this too. Also I’d like readers to develop their understanding of other people. Some of Maisie’s thinking and her behaviours might be very similar to the readers’, and others might be very different. I hope that by relating to Maisie at some level, people will be able to build on their understanding of the other parts of her personality.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Supporting children on their journey through home placement to adulthood – An Interview with Dr. Vera Fahlberg

Vera I. Fahlberg, M.D. is a retired pediatrician and psychotherapist. A trainer and consultant with an international reputation, she has travelled around the world sharing her expertise in attachment therapy with families and mental health professionals. For many years she was medical director at Forest Heights Lodge in Evergreen, Colorado, a residential treatment facility for troubled young boys. She has two grown up children and has fostered several children. She lives in Bremerton, Washington, USA.

In this interview, Dr Fahlberg shares some of the pivotal experiences she’s had over her long and influential career; talks about the important changes she’s seen in Child Welfare since the 1950’s; and points to some of the enduring lessons to be learned from her bestselling book, A Child’s Journey Through Placement – now available in the USA from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tell us about your background – how did you first come to work in this field?

As it is for many people, my road to my eventual areas of interest and expertise was not a direct route, but one with detours and several forks. When I applied for medical school in the early 1950’s I was interested in becoming a psychiatrist. However, during my third year, quite to my own surprise, I found that I really loved pediatrics and decided to pursue that specialty.

Following my graduation from medical school and my Pediatrics residency, I assumed that I would end up in academic medicine since my interest seemed to be more in becoming expert in some smaller area than a generalist. However, I decided to first take a break from academia and hospitals for two years and I went to work as a Child Care Worker at Forest Heights Lodge, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys located in Evergreen, Colorado, USA. The thought of spending more time outdoors in the mountains with kids, as opposed to being in a hospital setting, was most appealing to me. At the time I assumed I would return to academia in a couple of years. However, within a year the director of the Lodge and I got married and my path toward continuing to work with emotionally disturbed, or special needs children, seemed to be somewhat set.

With the birth of our two daughters, I became increasingly interested in Child Development and observing how children acquire and internalize new information. Along with my own parenting experiences, I spent considerable time learning more about parenting techniques, child development, and the characteristics of children who seem to have problems with academic, social or emotional learning. By the time our daughters were in school and I was ready to go back to work full-time I was working under the supervision of a Child Psychiatrist and a Child Psychologist, as well as several other therapists, increasing my skills in this area.

How did your experiences at Forest Heights influence your work in the Child Welfare field?

Treatment at Forest Heights Lodge was based on the theory that it was the interpersonal relationships that children developed with their caregivers, as opposed to more traditional psychotherapy, that formed the basis for real change. Therapists were seen as adjuncts; they helped ferret out the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and decode what the child’s behaviors were trying to communicate. It fell to those who lived with the boys to use this information to facilitate the development of helpful relationships, rather than allowing the residents to set up relationships that could reinforce their unhelpful perceptions of the world around them.

As the emphasis in residential treatment changed from long-term care to shorter term interventions, we became increasingly aware of how important it was for us to incorporate the parents in our treatment of the child, and to actively work at transferring the youngster’s gains in residence to his home setting. We also had become aware of how important home visits prior to placement could be in augmenting our understanding of the child’s issues and the parental strengths and weaknesses. We started including siblings in the assessment process and encouraged them to visit the Lodge so they could visualize where their brother would be, and so that they could meet some of the staff.

About the time that I was returning to full time work, we opened an out-patient clinic at Forest Heights. We found that a disproportionate number of children referred for out-patient therapy were coming from foster care or had been adopted. We realized that these children were frequently coming from backgrounds where they had learned a lot about non-supportive parent-child relationships. In their new settings there was an opportunity for relearning, just as there was for our in-patients. However, frequently the new parenting figures had minimal information about the past experiences and relationships of those children joining their families. No one was available to help assess how the children were interpreting their world, what their strengths and weaknesses might be, and, just as importantly, no one was working with the new parenting figures on creating a helpful environment for these children.

To me, the move from working primarily in residential care to working with children and youth who were in other forms of out-of-home care was a natural one. Working with “new” parents to create a helpful, and therapeutic, environment was very similar to working with Child Care Workers to form healthier relationships with our in-patients.

Your book A Child’s Journey Through Placement is now established as a classic text, which continues to be recommended to professionals, students and families wanting to understand the impact of broken attachments and how best to support children in out-of-home placements. Can you tell us what prompted you to write it, and what the book covers?

In the late 1970’s I started traveling the United States, doing training for Child Welfare caseworkers. This was a time of a rapid changes in the Child Welfare system. It was apparent that caseworkers desperately wanted the knowledge that would help them in making decisions that would be in the child’s best interests. They cared deeply about the children in their care and about their families but in many cases they had little training or knowledge about Child Development, and the impact of parent separation and loss. Child abuse and neglect were being recognized, reported, and responded to in large volume. Professionals were starting to become aware of the frequency of child sexual abuse.

Before I started writing I wanted to make certain that what was in my knowledge base made sense to line workers, that it resonated with their experiences. I was dependent on them to help me clarify and expand my knowledge base. My first writings were a series of four workbooks – one on Attachment and Separation; one on Child Development; one on Helping Children Move; and finally one on Behavior Management. These were created with the help of a group of about thirty child welfare professionals in the state of Michigan. They ranged from line caseworkers to the head of the State Adoption Unit and the heads of a several private agencies known for their focus on special needs adoption. Through a grant we were able to put together a training program that included the group meeting for one week at a time, six times spaced over 8-9 months. This meant that, as we looked at integrating the theoretical material I was bringing with the practical obstacles that people on the job were facing, we could see what worked and what didn’t over time.

Another advantage to this particular group was that, in addition to supervisory staff, it was composed of workers in child protection, long-term out of home placements, and adoption work from throughout the state. Each participant brought skills and insights from their own perspective and added to the knowledge base of all. At the end of each week, we got together to try to formulate exercises, charts, and pictorial representations for concepts that might help subsequent readers internalize and organize the material. Many of these were incorporated in the workbooks.

In 1991, I expanded on the material and put it into a single volume, A Child’s Journey Through Placement. By then I recognized that the information in the book should be aimed not only at Child Welfare caseworkers, but also at other people who came into frequent contact with this population of children – foster and adoptive parents, people who were doing therapy with these children, child advocates, and judicial personnel were some of those who seemed to want a reference to which they could refer. The first three chapters of the book which encompass the topics of Attachment and Bonding, Child Development, and Separation and Loss contain information that people who work with children in any capacity find useful. The next two chapters on Minimizing the Trauma of Moves and Case Planning are most useful to those who are working with children in care. The final two chapters deal with strategies for working with common behavioral problems and for doing direct work with children in a therapeutic context. The text is peppered with many case examples, exercises and tables. Four cases are followed throughout the book.

In the introduction to the book, you highlight how you intend to place the child as a centre of focus – why is this important?

One of the first children I saw in our out-patient clinic was a pre-schooler who had been placed for adoption a year or so earlier. She had lived with her foster family since infancy. They had a close relationship with her and wanted to adopt her, but in those days foster parents were not allowed to adopt children already in their care. In her foster home Beth had seemed like a normal child with no behavioral problems; she seemed to be emotionally close to her foster parents, as they were to her. In contrast, in the adoptive home, she withdrew from affection and control issues were frequent.

The original plan for the move to the adoptive home included several pre-placement visits. The adoptive family met Beth without ever having any contact with the foster parents as this was common practice at the time. Their first visit was an overnight with Beth at a local hotel. At the end of the visit, they asked her if she wouldn’t like to go home with them then, instead of returning to the foster family. She agreed and the plan was changed. She moved to her new home without ever seeing her foster parents again. Because the adoptive parents saw her as “starting a new life” they gave her a new first name and quickly changed her hair style to match that of the adoptive mother and an older child in the family. No one thought about how Beth might perceive these events.

From Beth’s viewpoint, she had abruptly lost the only family she knew; people had told her about one plan and then changed the moving plan; she saw no contact between people she already trusted and those she was expected to trust; she was to become “a new child” with a new family, a new name, and a new haircut. No wonder she was untrusting of the “new” parents. When I asked the caseworker about how the decisions about the move had been made, she was not defensive at all but replied that this was how things had always been done. Nothing had changed in the transfer process since the times of placing children for adoption meant placing newborn infants with adoptive parents. When Beth’s adoptive parents became aware of how the decisions they had made impacted her, they were rightfully angry that no one had helped them understand what the impact of the move might be.

This case had a marked impact on me. I started looking at each case and decision with the headset of “Do the current procedures make sense given the reality of this child?” The agency that had placed Beth started implementing changes immediately, becoming much more child-centered. We all realized that it is easiest for adults to think like adults, rather than to use knowledge of child development in implementing planning.

Throughout the years I learned how important it was in each case to listen to the child or adolescent and incorporate his/her view of life into the decision making. Another example should help clarify this. In the course of a training session on Working with Adolescents in Care, I was asked to interview an adolescent in front of an audience of over 100 participants. Of course, my greatest fear was that they would provide a sullen withdrawn adolescent who would refuse to talk. With great apprehension I agreed to try the interview. Carol, 15, was most anxious to participate and she proceeded to teach me and everyone in the audience me so much! While I was concerned that she might be self-conscious in front of the audience, she was focused on what she wanted the caseworkers to know about how the system was failing her. Basically, she had first been placed in care several years earlier because of parental substance abuse. Carol did well in care; her mother became sober and drug free; they were reunited after about a year. Mom, under the stress, started to reuse and Carol started to act out again. Carol was again placed in foster care. The cycle repeated itself again and now, for the third time, Carol was being told that she would be moved back to her mom’s care. From Carol’s viewpoint it was clear that both she and her mom did better when they lived apart and could just visit each other. The stress of the moves, and learning to live together again, caused each to have an increase in her problems. Carol presented a very compelling case. When in foster care she didn’t have to worry about her mom; her focus was on school and friends (as it should be during adolescence). She enjoyed her time with her mom during visits. “Every time I do well, I have to move again. Why can‘t I just stay here in foster care and visit my Mom. Things go well for all of us then.” Of course, another teen in a similar situation might have seen things differently and have felt “How come I work hard, do well in care, and still don’t get what I want most – to return home.” No matter what decision is made in this type of case, it is imperative that those working with the young person understand their way of looking at things, acknowledge their feelings, and incorporate their perceptions into the decision making process.

Following that interview, I was frequently asked (or sometimes I initiated the request) to conduct panels of kids in care, foster parents, birth parents, etc., before an audience. I quickly learned that if people were willing to participate on a panel they usually had something pressing to them, and worthwhile to the rest of us, to share. In that type of setting, much to my surprise, people frequently shared thoughts and feelings they would have been hesitant to share in a one-on-one setting. Consistently the members of such panels helped everyone in the audience see common situations from a different perspective.

Every policy and procedure in the Child Welfare system should be child centered. Of course, there will be times and circumstances when doing things in a way that will be least traumatic for the child are simply not feasible. However, as adults we must realize that we either “pre-pay” by doing careful planning for moves or we “post-pay” by having to spend considerable time and effort overcoming the impact of a poorly done transition on the child’s subsequent adjustment.

You’ve been speaking about your experiences working around the USA. How can the material in the book be applied in other countries or to other cultures?

By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I was doing training in Canada, and traveling further abroad. As in all other situations, my experiences in meeting people from other cultures and environs taught me as much as I taught them. In addition, I was blessed to make some long-term friendships with people in far off countries – people who are still my friends today and who have enriched my life, not just professionally but personally.

As my travels expanded to other countries, I quickly learned that although the systems set up to address Child Welfare issues might vary greatly from place to place, the children and the impact of their traumas and the adult responses to what had occurred to them were pretty much the same from place to place.

I had traveled to Scotland several times. One evening a foster dad, who had attended several of my sessions, approached me during an evening reception. He told me that the first time he was encouraged to come to one of my training sessions, he thought “What could this doctor from the U.S. possibly know about children in the foster care system in Scotland?” However, midway through the session he was thinking, “She has been hiding in my closet and knows what is going on in my house.” The children’s needs and behaviors were the same; it was just the governmental and judicial systems that were different.

On another occasion I was attending an International Fostercare Conference in Ireland, but had not yet made my presentations. During a free day, I was on a tour of the Irish countryside and met a woman from Slovenia. When I introduced myself, this stranger reached over and hugged me and said, “My friend – you are my friend, Vera Fahlberg?” I was both startled and confused by her response. She then explained that she was a psychologist working with foster families and the children in their care. She had been at a conference a couple of years before and was commenting to a psychologist from the U.S. about the difficulty finding anything useful in the literature for dealing with the situations she and the families she was helping were facing. He told her about the workbooks I had written and sent her a set when he returned to the U.S. She had been using the concepts in her work in Solvenia and had traveled to this conference to hear me speak.

Again, the basics of child development, the impact of parent loss, and the importance of attachment objects are the same in one country as another. However, in addition to the differences in the systems set up to deal with child welfare issues, and the differences in the legal constructs protecting children and families, varying cultures have relied on their basic beliefs while constructing protective and healing responses to child maltreatment. It is important that anyone working in this field understand as much as they can about the cultural, ethnic, and religious beliefs of those they are working with. By taking these beliefs into consideration and encouraging adults to work with us in creating strategies for intervening with children and their parents, we are more likely to come up with a plan that decreases, rather than increases, resistance on the part of the participants.

Can you talk about the changes in child welfare you’ve witnessed during your career?

In the 1960’s, when I was a Resident in Pediatrics, the medical community was just becoming aware of the extent and impact of child abuse. At that time, pediatricians, as opposed to psychiatrists or psychologists, were at the forefront of the movement to increase awareness of the long-term effects of child abuse and to start to form alliances with people in the field of Child Welfare.

By the mid 1970’s when I was ready to return to work full time, Child Welfare personnel had become aware of the fact that removal of children from abusive or neglectful homes was frequently not, in and of itself, a sufficient intervention. Many of these children didn’t respond like “normal” children in their new foster homes. Many had multiple moves. The concepts of Permanency Planning and Special Needs Adoption were just starting to take hold. Child sexual abuse was starting to be recognized as a significant problem. Legally, fathers of children born to single mothers rarely had any legal rights. Prior to 1975, schools were not required by law to provide an education for children with physical and/or mental handicaps.

In addition to the numerous legal changes made in the subsequent years, other changes in the child welfare system reflected societal and behavioral changes in adults – i.e. the large influx of “crack” babies; HIV positive infants; adoptive placement of children with families of different religious or racial backgrounds; a large influx of international adoptions; placement of children with gay or lesbian couples; the recognition of post-traumatic syndrome in children, etc. When I look back on all these changes, it is amazing how few reflect an actual change in the needs of the children being placed and how many reflect a change in laws and societal values. The basic needs of infants and children have remained constant and the basic importance of families, as opposed to institutional settings, as the primary source of child rearing has remained the same. I think this is why readers today still find A Child’s Journey Through Placement to be helpful and relevant. It focuses on children’s needs and perceptions of the world, and families’ capacities for meeting those needs, and provides guidelines for how agencies can help facilitate the achievement of these goals for the children in their care.

Of course, since I retired in 1998, there have been significant advances in knowledge, especially in the areas of brain development and the treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome in children. Such advances need to be incorporated into one’s assessment of children and the implementation of planning, but the advances do not obviate the need to make use of the basics of child development; the impact of loss (or separation from family members) on children; and the importance of forming close healthy interpersonal attachments to current caregivers.

What are the things you hope readers will take from the book?

I hope that those who read this book will feel that they have gained skills which will enhance their abilities to help the children entrusted to their care. In addition, I would be pleased if the reader takes from the book a sense of hope and optimism when dealing with children who are part of the Child Welfare system. Most children, with the help of caring adults, can be resilient and become adults who contribute to our society in spite of many past traumas. The rules and regulations of agencies should provide guidelines for good practice, while still maintaining the flexibility that is necessary in planning for young people with such a variety of temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses, as is apparent in this population. As any parent of several children knows, what works with one may be counterproductive with another; this is equally true for children in care. The system, caseworkers, and caregivers must take this into consideration in planning for each child.

I hope that the reader will realize the importance of paying careful attention to children in care. What they are conveying by both their words and their actions is the single most important aspect of case planning and implementing theory into practice for any one child. If the adult knows the child well, understanding his basic temperament; recognizing his learning skills and weaknesses (not just in academic areas, but how he learns basic skills within the family); and if the caregiver knows enough about the child’s background to understand why the young person may perceive adults the way he does, it is easier to come up with behavioral strategies that both meet the child’s needs and modify the behaviors in desirable ways.

It is important that professionals in the field of Child Welfare come to grips with the fact that their job is not to “save” children or families but to help them cope in the best possible way with the realities of their life experiences. In making major life decisions on behalf of clients – such as decisions about moves, reunification, etc. – it is important to realize that there is rarely an absolute right vs. wrong decision. Most commonly we are faced with determining which is the “least harmful” decision in each case. We must recognize that each decision may carry some negative consequences as well as the positive gains we are seeking. The goal is to implement the decision in a way that minimizes the negatives and accentuates the positives, and that helps the child continue to successfully meet challenges in his own individual journey through life.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

My Journal Journey – An Article by Kate Thompson, author of Therapeutic Journal Writing

Kate Thompson is a BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor and Supervisor in private practice, and a professional member of Lapidus UK. In 2010, she wrote Therapeutic Journal Writing as part of the JKP Writing for Personal Development Series.

In this short article, Kate shares her thoughts on process writing and includes some handy notes on writing for yourself and with a group.

My own journey from childhood diary writing in the 1960s to journal therapist in the 21st century has indeed been an almost lifelong process. This journey continues today, propelling me into the modern world of blogs and internet therapy which in some ways is a very natural development from journal writing.

I start from the premise that writing is always both a creative and a therapeutic act. I know that many people, including some of our greatest writers past and present, would agree with me, but others would not. I need to emphasise that therapeutic journal writing (almost a tautology, certainly the opposite of an oxymoron) is about process writing rather than product writing.

I have since childhood been one of those who felt ‘compelled’ to write. But I also want to stress that I am an intermittent journaller. I am full of admiration for those who do write every day but I do not – some of my clients write far more than I do.

[NOTE: Journal writing is sometimes referred to as a discipline or practice. One of the Myths of journal writing is:

“you have to do it every day”

You don’t. Often as possible is good, even five minutes counts, but there is no point in setting up unachievable goals – that way ‘failure’ lies and neither our clients nor ourselves need encourage that.]

So I have journalled on and off through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It is the way I process experience; it is the way I make sense of the world.

Writing the book was a personal and a professional journey. It is the culmination of more than15 years of professional practice. It brings together my twin passions for therapy and literature (I was a reader before I was a writer; I was a student and teacher of literature before I was a therapist). I wrote this book because this was a book I would have liked when I was training as a counsellor. At that time I had no idea that you could (‘were allowed to’) use journal writing as a therapeutic medium with clients. But I did know that it worked for me so it seemed natural to want to try. This book would have legitimized my instincts and given me the confidence to do it openly. Finding Kathleen Adams and The Center for journal Therapy in Colorado told me I was right.

In fact I’ve had three mentors who have encouraged me and supported me in this work:

Kathleen Adams, Gillie Bolton and Emmy van Deurzen.

I thank you all.

The journal container is big. People who come to my workshops or groups often show surprise about how broad the idea of journal writing is – the range of techniques at our disposal goes far beyond the descriptions of ‘what I did yesterday’. Journals can also include art, quotation and project plans as well as personal written stories or reflection leading to healing and growth.

Feedback forms often contain comments such as:

“I had a very narrow definition of journal writing – I know better now.”

I think my favourite comment on a feedback form is:

“I came with very low expectations – they were exceeded.”

I’m sure he meant it kindly.

There is one therapeutic journal technique which completes the reflective loop and does much to promote the integration of experience. It is a way of giving yourself a little written feedback after any journal entry:

The Feedback Loop

Read through your journal entry and then write a couple of sentences:

E.g. When I read this I notice…

When I read this I feel…

This to me is the key to therapeutic journal writing – I encourage anyone who keeps a journal to employ this technique which really completes the loop and can consolidate the insights and learning – you can try this at home immediately.

I always love to hear how people use journaling for themselves and with others, for personal and professional reasons – please tell me your experiences:

Read Kate Thompson’s Therapeutic Journal Writing Blog »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Susan Moreno, Marci Wheeler and Kealah Parkinson

Top Tips on Love and Relationships from Susan Moreno, Kealah Parkinson
and Marci Wheeler

Susan Moreno is the founder and president of MAAP Services, Inc. and is internationally known as a lecturer and motivational speaker. Marci Wheeler is a Social Work Specialist working at the Indiana Resource Center for Autism and writes and consults on topics relating to autism spectrum disorders. Kealah Parkinson is a professional communications coach and public speaker who specializes in fostering communication skills in clients with developmental disorders.

They are the authors of The Partner’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome.

Top Tips for non-spectrum (NS)/AS Relationships

In our book, we interviewed over 100 women who were in relationships with men on the spectrum. Here are some of the best tips we learned from all the partners in these extraordinary relationships:

1. Learn about autism spectrum disorders and how they affect the ASD partner; and in turn the ASD partner must learn about the NS behavior of their partner.

This will help partners understand and respect each other better and help resolve the issues partners face. NS partners can learn from each other as well as from adults on the autism spectrum, but remember that not everything you hear and read will apply to your ASD partner. The same is true for ASD partners learning about NS behavior. Use the knowledge you gain to ask and probe specific situations with your partner. Partners seeking to understand each other can help ensure that expectations of and support for each other can be realistic and appropriate.

2. Do not assume you know the intentions of your partner’s behavior.

Always seek to clarify. NS partners cannot interpret ASD behavior through their non-spectrum filter, and assume that they understand the meaning of a particular behavior of their ASD partner. It’s important to note that this can be especially challenging at the beginning of a diagnosis. The NS partner may feel it’s unfair that the ASD partner cannot often return the empathy, for example. However, once the NS partner begins to show compassion, it may be awesome how much the ASD partner returns this empathy and understanding.

3. Find outlets to alleviate stress – and use them!

Both partners likely have different ways of alleviating stress and both partners must learn these and express these needs to their partner. Encourage humor in your life together. This will help enhance the marital relationship. At times (maybe every day) this will mean separate activities. The ASD partner may need a lot of time to themselves and/or “extra” time to pursue their special interests. The NS partner may need time to “talk” and be emotional with others if the ASD partner cannot be there to “listen”.

4. Communicate with visuals and state exactly what you need (even if it seems obvious).

Use visual information (notes, email, even examples from books or other visual media) to convey or supplement verbal messages. Be creative. Visual information is much easier for most individuals on the autism spectrum to process, and it can be used as a permanent resource when anxiety, sensory overload or executive functioning skills are causing challenges for the partners. Communication should be as clear, calm and predictable. Partners should discuss clear and ongoing information about behavioral expectations. Think in terms of explanation instead of correction.

5. Acknowledge and address sensory needs and issues with your partner.

Sensory needs/issues can change over time and even vary from day to day. Make sure partners are heard when asking for a specific accommodation. In situations where the person on the autism spectrum is not in control, they can get overloaded and shut down or possibly experience a “meltdown”. Both partners need to be aware of this and work together, as much as possible, so both are accommodated. Sensory issues can include just about all aspects of life, from what clothes, foods, bedding and furnishings are comfortable for both partners, to what environments and activities may be enjoyable for both partners. Sensory issues can also affect intimacy. By following the tips above, however, even sensory issues in the bedroom can be lessened or resolved.

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Responding to young people who self-harm with concern, care and compassion – An Interview with Steven Walker

Steven Walker is Head of Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin University, UK. He is a registered social worker and psychotherapist and has worked in social care for over 30 years, specialising in child protection and child and adolescent mental health.

In this frank interview, Steven discusses the growing problem of self-harm amongst young people; how stereotypes and the current cuts in social care spending are affecting professionals’ ability to tackle this problem; and how his new book, Responding to Self-Harm in Children and Adolescents: A Professional’s Guide to Identification, Intervention and Support, can help.

You have written many popular books relating to child and adolescent mental health, including The Social Worker’s Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Where you find inspiration and motivation to write?

My own teenage years were not always happy times and I have dedicated most of my professional life to helping and supporting young people with emotional or mental health difficulties. Fortunately, I enjoy research and writing so I can share my ideas, knowledge and skills with staff who want to make a positive difference to the well-being of young people, who are so often misunderstood and demonised by adult society. There is still considerable prejudice against young people and so little help and support that I don’t find it difficult to get motivated or inspired to carry on doing what I do. Young people are our future, adults have created the world in which they witness huge inequality and injustice, so we owe it to them to provide whatever support they need to cope.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how this new book came about?

I’ve worked and taught in child and adolescent mental health for about 20 years. I came across mental health problems in young people in my first social work job in Tower Hamlets in 1985. It’s in every aspect of social work in one form or another but it gets labelled as youth crime, school problems, anti-social behaviour and binge drinking. I was inspired by The Maudsley Hospital Children’s Department where I was placed as a student social worker during my training. Young Minds is another source of inspiration –  they do a lot with precious little resources to champion young people’s mental health.

I feel that the problem of self-harm and suicide are still difficult areas in which to work, and very stigmatising for young people and their families who are affected. I hope the book is accessible to a range of people who will find crucial advice on how to identify, assess, manage, treat and support the recovery of young people who are sufffering. Probably the most important thing readers will hopefully take away from the book is a sense of optimism, demystification of self-harm and suicide, and practical guidance.

It is often claimed that there is a shortage of training for health and social care workers in relation to self-harm. Do you agree and, if so, why do you think this is?

Lack of in-depth training is one issue that prevents staff from being able to understand, manage and support a young person who self-harms or exhibits suicidal behaviour. The two issues are not the same and this is partly why there is confusion among professional staff, and why families are reluctant to involve health and social care services. Recent cuts to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services in terms of staff and range of support will make this situation worse. There is no national training for staff who are likely to come across a young person who self-harms, such as teachers, social workers and those working in Youth Services or places which are accessible to young people seeking help outside statutory Health and Social Care systems. Young people’s mental health and emotional well-being has never been a priority for any government, but currently training budget cuts are reducing even further the chances for staff to improve knowledge and skills in this area.

It is reported that self-harm is a growing problem in children and young people. Why this might be?

The problem with self-harm and suicidal behaviour is that it is easily hidden, carries considerable stigma and is misunderstood by many professional staff. Evidence suggests that it is increasing as a generation of young people are exposed to a harsh economic and social climate, competition for higher education and skills training, and increases in poverty, unemployment and parents under considerable stress. Young people find ways of coping in these circumstances and self-harm is a strategy many are using to cope with feelings of anger, despair and hopelessness.

Are there certain social profiles of children and young people who are most at risk of self-harm?

There is no typical profile of a young person who self-harms; each individual person has a unique history of development, resilience, family dynamics, vulnerability and socio-economic factors which together can – with a significant trigger such as a bereavement, parental divorce, or sexual abuse – create the conditions for self-harm to begin.

What are the most common misunderstandings between young people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them?

Nurses who encounter self-harm in emergency units can sometimes respond in a way that comes across as punitive, unsympathetic and judgmental. This is very unhelpful to a young person in crisis. It’s because they see self-harm or suicide attempts as self-inflicted injury, whereas their training is mostly about disease, biology and surgery. They are not properly trained or supported by managers in this area and they are always overstretched, so when someone with self-injury requires help they feel angry. This attitude harms the young person, hinders their recovery and prevents the young person seeking support to stop self-harming in future because they fear such punitive/ignorant attitudes. These attitudes are not restricted to Nurses but felt by others working in Health, Social Care, Criminal Justice, and Education contexts. Any person encountering a self-harming young person needs to show concern, care, and compassion and this book will help them start by understanding the problem and what actually helps.

You are Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin University. Can you tell us about your role, and the course that you run? What are you working on now?

I designed, developed and delivered one of the very few CAMHS training courses for multi-disciplinary students in the UK from Health, Social Work and Education contexts, whose employers recognised the need for specialist training in this area. The course won a prestigious National Training Accolade in 2004 for ‘most innovative multi-disciplinary training’ and was approved as a post-qualifying award by the General Social Care Council. The innovation was the multi-professional nature of the student intake. We recruited Psychologists, Psychiatrists, GP’s, Social Workers, School Nurses, Health Visitors, Teaching Assistants, Housing Department staff, Youth Workers, CAMHS and Youth Offending Team staff.

Government cuts have dealt a blow to the course, which is no longer viable due to low numbers of students sponsored by their employers. I’ve just completed a major research project on Cyber-Bullying which is another major threat to young people’s mental health and is more harmful than ‘traditional’ bullying. I’m currently working on a research bid to examine the problem of young people who run away from residential care and their mental health needs. And I have just been commissioned to edit a book on the Mental Health system and how it fails those who are suffering.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Top Tips on Love and Relationships for Valentine’s Day…from Maxine Aston

Top Tips on Love and Relationships from Maxine Aston

Maxine Aston is a qualified counsellor and supervisor, and presents Asperger Syndrome awareness workshops to counsellors and professionals who may encounter clients affected by AS. She also runs workshops and support groups for partners and parents that live with a person with AS. Maxine has an MSc in Health Psychology and is a regular speaker at National and International ASD conferences.

She is the author of The Asperger Couple’s Workbook and
Aspergers in Love.

Top Tips for both partners:

1. Develop an understanding of what is due to Asperger syndrome and what is personality.

Asperger syndrome (AS) does not change the personality; it will only affect a small part of the brain causing difficulties in very specific areas. It is important for both partners to be aware of what is down to AS and what is down to personality.

2. Accept the difference you both have, rather than fight that difference.

An AS/non-spectrum (NS) coupling will mean that each partner will have a different way of processing information and perceiving themselves, their partner and the world. Relationships are never about being the same or making the other the same as you. Both of you bring your own positives and strengths to the relationship, where each will be as valuable as the other. Learn from the difference and do not see it as a threat.

3. Allow one another the space and time to thrive in your own worlds.

Being different will mean needing to spend time in ways that will allow relaxed growth. How each chooses to do this may be very different and may sometimes make no sense to the other. Respect the other’s needs and allow them the space to spend time to indulge in their pastimes and hobbies.

4. Avoid having expectations that are too high.

Keep expectations realist and achievable, otherwise there will always be a risk of disappointment. Both of you should avoid making promises that neither of you will be able to keep; no one is perfect and the reality is that we all make mistakes, and don’t always get it right. It is called being human and that’s OK.

5. Avoid taking responsibility for one another’s happiness.

We are all responsible for our own happiness and it would be unfair to expect our partner to be responsible for making us happy. No one can do that. In an AS/NS relationship both will have different needs and requirements and, therefore each will have a responsibly to themselves to find a way to meet those needs.

6. Having AS is not an excuse to avoid making changes.

Making improvements and progress will require a certain amount of change and effort on both parts. Having AS is not a reason not to try or make an effort to work at improving the relationship.

Look out for Maxine’s forthcoming book, Everything a Man with Asperger Syndrome Wants to Know about Dating, Women and Relationships but is Afraid to Ask – July 2012!

More Top Tips on Love and Relationships from JKP authors »

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.